If you haven’t heard, Virginia became the latest state to report the presence of the Giant Hogweed: an invasive plant with sap that burns the skin and can even cause blindness if it gets into the eyes. The Giant Hogweed lives up to its name, with some individuals growing as tall as 15 feet high.
A native of New Zealand, the Giant Hogweed, or Heracleum mantegazzianum, was brought to the United States as an ornamental plant. The Giant Hogweed is illegal to import or transport in the United States, but the plant is spreading fine by itself, with specimens discovered in 10 states, so far.
Invasive plants are a major problem in real life, but they make for great fiction. Here’s a few reading suggestions you might enjoy.
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
In John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, a species of invasive, ambulatory, carnivorous plants armed with venomous stingers go on the hunt when most of humanity is blinded in a mysterious meteor shower. Scientist Bill Masen is one of the lucky few left with sight, and now it is up to him to guide the blind to safety without any of them becoming Triffid chow.
The Genocides by Thomas M. Disch
Years ago, aliens seeded the Earth with mysterious plants that grew to massive proportions, destroying most of civilization and choking the planet’s native life out of existence. A group of survivors encounter a colony on the shores of Lake Superior, but discover that it’s hardly the sanctuary they had hoped to find. Worse yet, the aliens are about to unleash the second stage of their plan to rid the planet of its human habitants.
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H. P. Lovecraft
Rumors of encounters with strange creatures in the Vermont hills draws the attention of skeptical but curious folklorist Albert Wilmarth. Eager to get to the bottom of the mystery, he tries to arrange a visit with a local resident. At first, he is warned away, but then the man has a complete change of heart and practically begs Wilmarth to come and see what’s going on for himself. Wilmarth takes him up on his invitation and learns that his new friend — and his friends — are all really fun guys.
The Ruins by Scott Smith
Have you ever watched one of those vacation shows where a perfectly tanned, buff, gorgeous couple goes on a dream vacation to some exotic location that a working schlub such as yourself could probably never afford? Deep down, did you kind of seethe about it? Maybe hope something terrible would come along and ruin their week in paradise? No? Okay. Guess it’s just me. Regardless, you might still enjoy The Ruins, a novel about what happens when a group of young vacationers leave their glamorous Mexican to go explore some ancient ruins that have been colonized by a bloodthirsty plant.
The Savage Garden, Revised: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants by Peter D’Amato
While we strongly discourage spreading truly invasive species, inviting carnivorous plants into your own home seems to fit the flavor, if not theme, of this list. Harmless and fun, carnivorous plants are great for gardeners looking for something a little different. The Savage Garden is the best guide to the care and feeding of these marvelous plants.